J. Kenji López-Alt has written extensively on sous vide, and his guide at Serious Eats is a great primer. (His excellent cookbook, The Food Lab, also includes a section on sous vide.) And Dave Arnold’s visual charts (pdf) for the site Cooking Issues are also handy.

But for sous vide newbies, here are some reasons to try the technique out this summer:

You’ll become a grilling ninja

The biggest reason to cook your steak sous vide is to avoid the gray band. That’s the layer of meat, when you cut into a slice, between the browned edges and the pink (or red) center. No matter how skilled you are with the grill or skillet, a well-charred traditionally cooked steak will inevitably have that double-layer of overcooked meat.

With sous vide cooking, however, you can bring the entire piece of meat to your preferred temperature—120°F (49°C) for rare, 135°F (57°C) for medium, 156°F (69°C) for well-done—and then slap it on a hot grill (or cast-iron pan) for a quick char on each side. The meat will be browned on the outside, and cooked to your liking top to bottom.

Even cheaper cuts of steak—which are often more flavorful than filet mignon, but can be tough when cooked on the grill—become tender after a long enough sous vide bath at the right temperature. The method melts the fat in marbled meat and converts the connective tissue collagen to tender gelatin, but stops short of the overcooking that toughens and dries the muscle.

The great bonus of cooking sous vide is that it’s a way to manage your time and anxiety on a day of summer grilling. You can sous vide your steaks earlier in the day, and then hold them at temperature for several hours before a final quick sear and serve—allowing ample time to prep a side salad, grill some hot dogs for the children, and pour yourself a cocktail.

Again, López-Alt is required reading, this time, his treatise on sous vide steak.

You’ll rediscover the simple pleasure of eggs

Even the least confident cook probably knows how to boil an egg. But eggs from a sous vide cooker are an entirely different matter.

The cooker can produce the kind of slow-poached eggs that chef David Chang popularized at his Momofuku empire—perfectly quivery when cracked over roasted or grilled asparagus, or into a bowl of ramen soup. And it creates fudgy-yolked hard-boiled eggs that will put any crumbly, green-tinged boiled egg to shame. Sous vide eggs will hold for several days in the fridge, so I usually do a dozen at a time, then eat them throughout the week—pickled in soy sauce, cracked over warm greens and rice, tossed with pasta and parmesan, or simply on toast.

This is dead-easy sous vide. The shell encases the egg, so it doesn’t even require vacuum-sealing. And it’s a great place to experiment with the beer-cooler method if you’re not ready to invest in an immersion circulator. López-Alt’s handy guide to cooking times and temperatures is here.

You’ll stop paying premium prices for dodgy raw fish

Salmon poké.
Salmon poké.
Image: Indrani Sen

The high-quality, flash-frozen “sashimi-grade” fish that good restaurants and sushi bars serve is expensive stuff that’s hard to find for the home cook. It often comes from fishing operations that are far from sustainable, and it’s not always safe to eat.

Sous vide, however, offers a nifty trick for raw fish preparations that’s safe for the home cook. After a brine and sous vide bath, fish can still retain the translucence of sashimi, with a silky texture. Then you can cool it and serve it as sushi, crudo, tartar, or poké. Here’s my favorite recipe for the Hawaiian raw fish salad.

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